Emotional Health

The Wednesday 5: Living Mindfully

In this week’s Wednesday 5, we share with you five powerful pieces that cajole us to live mindfully—i.e., commit to the art of conscious living. Dina Kaplan charges us to think about our culture’s glorification of being busy; Anna Deavere Smith reminds us of the importance of carving out our own sense of discipline; Justin Michael Williams offers us ways to begin our mornings with a practice of gratitude; Colleen Long counsels us on how to reclaim joy in our lives and in our children’s lives; and Elizabeth Gilbert coaxes us into accepting our failures—she’s had many.

 

1.

The Cult of Busy

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Dina Kaplan is on a mission—”to end the glorification of busy.” Kaplan, an entrepreneur based in New York City and  founder of The Path, a meditation-based startup aimed at young professionals, writes in “The Cult of Busy:”

Being busy has become a refrain and rationale for the things we don’t do, an acceptable and even glamorous excuse. My friend at lunch reminded me of what the Buddhist monk Sogyal Rinpoche calls “active laziness”–the filling of our lives with unessential tasks so we feel full of responsibilities or, as he calls them, “irresponsibilites.”

She argues that when we declare ourselves “too busy,” what we’re perhaps doing is filling our days “with less important things to avoid the thoughtful, strategic work that [is] required.”

Busy can become a way of life. We’re seduced by all the incoming–the emails and text messages that make us feel wanted and important—stimulating our dopamine, as research shows, but in an exhausting, ultimately empty way. Busy has a dangerous allure. If your normal is busy, it’s tough to sit quietly with your thoughts or to really feel what you’re feeling. What if, instead, everything became a choice–how we spend time, who we respond to and how much or little we write? What if we recognized the difference between accomplishing our goals for the day and responding to other people’s requests? What if we learned to say no–a lot?

Read more on Medium about how we can begin to examine and confront the allure of “being busy.”

 

2.

Anna Deavere Smith: Discipline, and How We Can Learn to Stop Letting Others Define Us

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Maria Popova at Brain Pickings revisits Anna Deavere Smith’s  Letters to a Young Artist (published in 2006) to offer us a beautiful definition and poignant reminder of what “Discipline” truly means.  Popova writes that Discipline is “The unflinching commitment to ourselves, to our own sense of merit and morality, to our own ideals and integrity.”

What Anna Deavere Smith adds to the conversation, says Popova, is the importance of cultivating that discipline for ourselves and in our own lives, especially as we come up against moments of both internal and external criticism:

“. . . one is forced to be one’s own judge, one also tends to be one’s worst critic, and any outside fuel in the engine of self-criticism feels equally potent. Which is precisely why Smith’s point about cultivating discipline and clarity in one’s self-assessment is of tremendous, soul-saving importance. It’s the ability, acquired through practice, of seeing one’s work for what it is—whether proud-making or imperfect or, quite often, both—by one’s own standards, and not to hang the fullness of one’s heart or the stability of one’s soul on those external opinions and definitions.”

Read more on cultivating discipline at Brain Pickings.

 

3.

Starting Your Mornings with a Practice of Gratitude

Image via YogaJournal.comImage from YogaJournal.com

‘Tis the season for thankfulness. However, gratitude ought to be a state of mind all year round. With that agenda in mind, Justin Michael Williams at Yoga Journal urges us to begin our days with gratitude—the practice of it. He asks of us:

What is the very first thing you do in the morning? Be honest. Check your email? Open Instagram? Brush your teeth? Meditate? Your sunrise thoughts and actions are incredibly important, because they set the tone for your entire day. Going immediately into an intention practice before you do anything else is like setting your internal GPS. It sets you up to navigate your life with greater grace and ease, regardless of what unexpected twists and turns arise.

In a series of five simple asanas, Williams guides us through a five-minute practice of gratitude to start our days.

P.S., you can stay in bed as you expand your gratitude. Gotta love that!

 

4.

The Happiness Rx: The Number-One Thing Our Parents Forgot to Teach Us

To answer the question above, Colleen Long, Psy.D., writes in Psychology Today:

We were born out of a generation of do-ers. Education and academic achievement were continuously pounded into our parents’ psyches as “the way out,” or at least a guarantee that their children would not have to worry about money. That their childrens’ lives would be better than their own. The American Dream. However, somewhere along the way, joy was left on the side of the road. An underlying assumption existed that once we got our degrees, our titles, our brass rings, our 401K’s in place—joy would be waiting for us at the end, like a pot of gold.

Joy! We’ve forgotten about Joy. Long shares some pointers on how we can “change this legacy for ourselves and for our children.” They include simple shifts like:

  • Create a list of all those people in your life that fill you up. Make a weekly habit to contact at least two to three of the people in your list.
  • Instead of limiting your conversations to “what did you do in school today,” you could add “when did you feel the happiest today?”

Read more on Joy at Psychology Today.

 

5.

Elizabeth Gilbert on Success and Failure

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight via her talk at TED2014, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple—though hard—way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

 

Join the conversation

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  • Phil Tamberino November 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I am an elementary educator who has been retired for four years. I loved the piece on the glorification of busy and I intend to double down on your idea. Writing has become therapeutic for me while most people would not even consider it as a daily activity. Also, the art of conversation has been lost in our very busy world. Most people I know are so busy they don’t even communicate with their loved ones.
    You have touched upon the essence of life and more needs to be said on the topic. You have touched my soul and I thank you for that!

    Reply
  • roz warren November 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    the first thing i do each morning? reach for my glasses. which, thanks to cataract surgery, i no longer need.

    so maybe instead i ought to feel gratitude about being able to actually see?

    Reply
  • ellensue spicer-jacobson November 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I love this concept of the cult of busyness.I agree! And the other ideas are definitely important. Keeping busy IS often an excuse not to look at what’s important or to stave off boredom instead of looking at goals. Thanx for the reminder.

    Reply